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ACM Home arrow The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth
The Commonwealth


The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-three independent member states which grew out of the British Empire.

Only two members, Mozambique and Rwanda, were not British colonies.

The member states cooperate within a framework of common values and goals including the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism, and world peace.

 The Commonwealth is not a political union, but an intergovernmental organisation through which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General. Meetings of  Commonwealth Heads of Government are held every two years.

 Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth and as such is a symbol of the members free association.  Her Majesty is also the monarch of 16 members of the Commonwealth which are referred to as Commonwealth realms. 



...history...


The first usage of the term ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ appears to be to have been in 1884 by Lord Rosebery when he was visiting Australia.  He described the changing the British Eempire  with some of its colonies becoming more independent as a Commonwealth of Nations.

Conferences of British and colonial prime ministers had occurred periodically since 1887, leading to the creation of the Imperial Conferences in 1911. The Commonwealth developed from the Imperial Conferences.

A specific proposal was presented by Jan Christian Smuts in 1917 when he coined the term "the British Commonwealth of Nations," and envisioned the "future constitutional relations and readjustments in the British Empire."  Smuts successfully argued that the Empire should be represented at the all-important Versailles Conference of 1919 by delegates from the dominions as well as Britain.

 In the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, Great Britain and its dominions agreed they were "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations".

The members agreed that in future governors general should be appointed by the sovereign after consultation with and advice from the ministers of the respective Dominion.

These aspects to the relationship were eventually formalised by the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Australia, New Zealand, and Newfoundland delayed ratification of the statute.  Newfoundland never did as it joined Canada in 1948 . Australia and New Zealand did in 1942 and 1947 respectively.



...British Commonwealth becomes The Commonwealth....



After World War II, the British Empire was gradually dismantled to just 14 British overseas territories, still held by the United Kingdom today.

In April 1949, following the London Declaration, the word "British" was dropped from the title of the Commonwealth to reflect its changing nature.  

In addition, it was agreed that the overseas members should no longer be referred to as dominions, but rather as Commonwealth realms

Burma (also known as Myanmar, 1948), and Aden (1967) are the only states that were British colonies at the time of the war not to have joined the Commonwealth upon post-war independence.





...absent friends...




Among the former British colonies, protectorates and mandates  which have  never become members of the Commonwealth are the United States (1776)  Egypt (independent in 1922), Iraq (1932), Transjordan (1946), British Palestine (part of which became the state of Israel in 1948), Sudan (1956), British Somaliland (which became part of Somalia in 1960), Kuwait (1961), Bahrain (1971), Oman (1971), Qatar (1971), and the United Arab Emirates (1971).



...republics...

The issue of countries with constitutional structures not based on a shared Crown but that wanted to remain members of the Commonwealth, came to a head in 1948 with passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, in which Ireland renounced the sovereignty of the Crown[ and thus left the Commonwealth. The Ireland Act 1949 passed by the Parliament of Westminster offered citizens of the Republic of Ireland a status similar to that of citizens of the Commonwealth in UK law.

In April 1949 at a Commonwealth prime ministers meeting in London, it was agreed that a realm could become a republic and if approved by the other members could remain within the Commonwealth.

 Under this London Declaration, India agreed that, when it became a republic, in January 1950, it would accept the British Sovereign as a "symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth".


...until 2007, re-apply...
 

Until 2007, a realm wishing to become a republic still had to reapply for membership of the Commonwealth.  This would have to be approved by all members.  In 1999, ACM revealed that Australian republicans, including the Attorney-General had overlooked the requirements of the London declaration. 

Constitutional monarchists criticised the Republicans for not ascertaing this and ensuring that there would be no objection from other members to any change of status.  This would have required unanimous approval of other members. In practice approval seems to have been ssumed in the absence of an objection.  At that time Australia did not have the most friendly relations with the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir. He had vetoed our membership of another international group.

Now,  change to a republic can be effected without reapplication provided the member is observing all of the Commonwealth criteria for membership. The judgement on this is made by the other members acting unanimously.  Thus it could be argued that the 2007 decision could still raise the issue of a veto following a change of status .

Following India's precedent, other nations became republics, or constitutional monarchies with their own monarchs, while some countries retained the same monarch as the United Kingdom, but their monarchies developed differently and soon became fully independent of the British monarchy. The monarch of each Commonwealth realm, whilst the same person, is regarded as a separate legal personality for each realm.  In 1999 th 

The Queen and Commonwealth Day 2011 Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Wednesday, 21 March 2012
 
The Queen marks Commonwealth Day Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Monday, 19 March 2012

Queen Elizabeth attends the Commonwealth Day Observance at Westminster Abbey on 12 March 2012, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Countess of Wessex

 

 
The King of Tonga has passed away Print E-mail
Written by Harold Schmauze   
Monday, 19 March 2012

King George Tupou V (Tongan: Siaosi Tupou V, full name: Siaosi Tāufaʻāhau Manumataongo Tukuʻaho Tupou V; born 4th May 1948) has passed away on 18th March 2012. He inherited the crown following the death of his father, King Tupou IV, on 10th September 2006.

His Majesty's coronation as King of Tonga, took place on 1st August 2008 in the capital Nuku’alofa (see report and photos here).

Only a month ago, His Majesty paid a visit to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

Tonga's new King ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho was born 12th July 1959 as the younger brother of King George Tupou V of Tonga and was officially confirmed as Crown Prince by the latter on 27th September 2006. He also served as Tonga's High Commissioner to Australia, and resided in Canberra until the death of King George Tupou V on 18th March 2012, when ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho became King of Tonga.

While in Australia the then Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka of Tonga visited the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Programme (AACAP) in Mapoon, Queensland on 27th August 2009.

New Crown Prince is His Royal Highness Prince 'Ulukalala, who married Sinaitakala Tu'imatamoana Fakafanua in August 2011, als reported here.

                   [This report is republished with the kind permission of Harold Schmauze; it  first appeared in the Radical Royalist]

 
The Commonwealth Day Message 2012 Print E-mail
Written by Her Majesty The Queen   
Tuesday, 13 March 2012
One of the great benefits of today’s technology-based world is the range of opportunities it offers to understand and appreciate how others live: we can see, hear and enter into the experience of people in communities and circumstances far removed from our own.

Image

A remarkable insight we gain from such windows on the world is that, however different outward appearances may be, we share a great deal in common.

Our circumstances and surroundings may vary enormously, for example in the food we eat and the clothes we wear, but we share one humanity, and this draws us all together. The joys of celebration and sympathy of sadness may be expressed differently but they are felt in the same way the world over.

How we express our identities reveals both a rich diversity and many common threads. Through the creative genius of artists - whether they be writers, actors, film-makers, dancers or musicians - we can see both the range of our cultures and the elements of our shared humanity.

.

Read more...
 
Death penalty & republic - Jamaican PM's agenda Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 09 January 2012
Jamaica's new prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, has said that it is time to reintroduce the death penalty and become some as yet unspecified form of republic.  The only information l Jamaicans have been given about the proposed republic is that it will come with the gallows.

Image

Speaking at her inaugural address on Friday, Portia Simpson Miller, said her government would "initiate the process of detachment from the monarchy", establishing a republic with a president as head of state, and breaking off links with the former colonial power.




This report by Al Jazeera's Andrew Potter was broadcast on 7 January, 2012.

"I love the Queen. She's a beautiful lady," Ms.Simpson Miller enthused to 10,000 guests on Thursday at the residence of Jamaica's governor-general, the Queen's representative on the island.

Switching to patois, she added: "But I think time come."





...hangings to come back...




Capital punishment is another bone of contention for Jamaica, reports Luke Harding in The Guardian 6 January,2012 . The island has one of the world's highest murder rates, with violent crime a daily occurrence. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council -- the final court of appeal under the current constitution -- has repeatedly blocked attempts to enforce the death penalty, a move seen as colonial-style foreign meddling.

This week Ms. Simpson Miller also promised to introduce reforms to make a Caribbean court of justice the final appeal court in all criminal matters. The move would repatriate Jamaica's sovereignty fully, she said.

On 29 December the 66-year-old led her centre-left People's National Party (PNP) to a landslide win over the centre-right Jamaica Labour Party, winning 42 of 63 seats.


...an assessment...
Read more...
 
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